The “Freshman 15” may get the most ink when it comes to college students and their health, but one very common issue when the kids go back to school is back pain. Between move-in, sitting for long classes, and lugging textbooks to and from class after a backpack-free summer, back pain and discomfort can be easily caused in just the first few weeks of getting back to school.
One back-to-school activity that can affect parents just as much as their kids is moving back into the dorms or off-campus housing. Carrying heavy objects such as luggage, futons, building dressers, and bed lofts are all heavy weight-lifting activities that can affect your back. Survive college move-in day pain-free by paying attention to your mechanics. For instance, carry clothing in smaller bags as opposed to larger, heavier trunks or boxes. When lifting furniture, lift with your legs – squat using your legs to pick up the load rather than bending at the waist, which could strain your back.
Once students are moved in, the next obvious culprit of back pain is the backpack. When backpacks are more than 15 percent of the carrier’s body weight, postural deviations (forward-head, rounded shoulders, gait imbalance) are increased. Learning to wear a backpack properly can help prevent bad postural habits that could continue for a lifetime. There are a few small and quick changes to backpack use that are most effective. First, wearing both straps will evenly distribute the weight being carried and promote more symmetrical alignment. Try looking for backpacks with multiple compartments and extra chest and hip straps. These extra helpers will distribute the load evenly throughout the back and hips for added support. Also, wear the backpack mid-back where the muscles are strongest and best able to support a heavy load.
Something else to consider when looking to prevent back pain at the beginning of the school year is footwear. School starts at the end of summer, and while flip flops and sandals may be the easiest and most popular footwear choice among college students, they are less than ideal for long walks to class and around campus, especially when carrying a heavy bag. Flip flops are flimsy and can cause trips and falls. College students should have comfortable, supportive, closed-toe shoes for daily use.
To prevent or manage back pain while back at school, there are some easy stretches college students can do, even at home in their dorms.
- Cobra stretch: Lie on the floor face down with your legs and feet together. Place your hands near your armpits and rise up on your hands until your arms are straight. Let your head lean back.
- Lower back twist: Lie on your back with your arms out. Bend your right leg and pull it over your left leg with your left hand. Switch legs and repeat.
- Lying lower backstretch: Lie on your back and using both hands, pull your knees into your chest.
Are you ready for college move-in day? Should you or your child be experiencing back pain or discomfort, contact our office for a consultation.